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Joost Hiltermann @JoostHiltermann
, 12 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
1/ In the wake of the @nytimes piece on today's #Iraq,, here is my bird's eye view of the #IraqElections2018 in the context of the standoff between #Iran and the US in the region..../2
2/ As I have stated most recently in @ForeignPolicy here,, Iraq has seen a convergence of Iranian and US interests since 2003. This has led to a degree of mutual accommodation, despite the fact that each has wanted to get rid of the other's presence....3/
3/ They each have their favorites, but they also each have tried to sway the middle, and to pursue their interests playing the middle. And whoever has been in the middle became a consummate juggler for as long as they could: Jaafari, Maliki, Abadi, and whoever is up next.../4
/4 Iran has very few, if any, real proxies in Iraq (even if Qasem S may think differently). #Badr/#SCIRI, created in Iran in 1982, had fair relations with the US in the 1990s; these warmed after 2003 and endured till now. They're also close to the Kurdish parties.../5
/5 When I met Ayatollah Moh Baqr al-Hakim in Tehran in 2002, I discovered that I couldn't find anyone there who hated the Iranians more than SCIRI did. They didn't like Iran to lord it over them the way it did. Of course, they were ok w/ the money and equipment and training.../6
/6 When SCIRI returned to Iraq in 2003, they in turn discovered that Iraqis didn't like them because of their Iran link. This put them in an awkward political position they have struggled to overcome ever since. We @CrisisGroup wrote about it here: .../7
/7 The group has split twice over it, and its influence is much diluted. Meanwhile, Iran pursued its anti-US policy in Iraq, using whoever was willing to do its bidding. We @CrisisGroup wrote about this, too:, questioning the influence it really had.../8
/8 The Shiite militias on which Iran has preyed were the direct result of US dismantling of the army in 2003, which created a security vacuum. Insurgents arose in that vacuum as well, and a sectarian war ensued. We @CrisisGroup wrote about that here: .../9
/9 The militias were gradually absorbed into Iraq's new security forces because their leaders dominated the government. But the #ISIS crisis renewed the need for them: the army was both still too weak and also too sectarian to effectively police Sunni areas such as Mosul....10/
/10 Now the commanders of these paramilitary groups want to parlay their newly won prestige in the battle against #ISIS into political power. But to the extent that some of them are backed by #Iran, they will face a credibility gap. Iraqis still are not very fond of Iran... /11
/11 So let's see what will happen in the elections. The outcome won't be known for a while. No winner in the past has become prime minister, but that's obviously a pattern, not a rule. As before, all will depend on post-election bargaining.... /12
/12 The paramilitary leaders will continue to exert influence. But in the final analysis, they are Iraqis. They prefer to play the US out against Iran, keeping both at arm's length if they can, and benefiting from both. They have mastered the art. It will hold Iraq together. /END
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